Adam Curtis

Everyone goes on holiday in Britain. Even Hells Angels.

I've just found a wonderful, very funny documentary made in 1973 about a group of British Hells Angels.

It's about their daily life and culminates in them going on a weekend mini-break on a derelict barge in the pouring rain near Aylesbury.

They're obviously not very nice people (especially as they tend to go on about Nazis). And the film has a disapproving commentary that talks about their "psychotic tendencies" and their "empty daily existence". But as you watch the film you begin to realise that the director (or possibly the editor) was making a completely different film.

It uses the Hells Angels as a comic and exaggerated parody of the emptiness of the daily life for everyone in Britain.

The film is full of wonderful moments. The lead character - Mad John - goes round to see his wife, but completely ignores her because he finds a letter to him from the fountainhead of Angeldom - the California Angels chapter.

His wife stomps off leaving Mad John with his suitcase of memorabilia. Inside the suitcase is a magazine called "Big Chopper" and a real chopper. He sits with his only real friend - his alsatian dog called Hitler.

And the Hells Angels' holiday ends with all them all sitting together on the barge in the rain watching Dr Who on television drinking cans of lager.

Not much change there then.

Here are the stars of the film:

"Mad John" the Vice President of the Chapter. He was named "Mad John" by "Buttons" who was the first official Hells Angel's leader in Britain. (You can see Buttons' legendary autobiography - Buttons, The Making of a President - briefly in Mad John's suitcase.)

Karl - the Sergeant at Arms of the Chapter. He has been cross-eyed ever since his eyes were knocked out of their sockets in a fight.

Mad John's dog called Hitler plus a great carpet and some fantastic wallpaper.

And Angel member Mick's mum who comes round to lend them a portable TV for the weekend.

She is asked what she thinks about her son being a Hells Angel - and she gives one of the best quotes I have ever heard. It is brilliantly comic.

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  • Comment number 38. Posted by eizenmeister

    on 5 Aug 2011 15:59

    The Outcasts

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmcoUzncSmc&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPsP7clVDbc&feature=related

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  • Comment number 37. Posted by Peter Walsh

    on 13 Jun 2011 21:40

    I was in H.A. Ratae which was formed in 1967 and everyone around the world in their own clubs were eventually swallowed up by the American culture. I remember when Buttons got his charter, we was offered one as well in 1969. Buttons got his Charter with Harley Pete. Our President at the time turned the Charter down as we had red on blue, not red on white patches and in 1969 we were well known and we did not want to lose our identity.
    When Buttons returned from california, he was told to stay away from the Hell's Angels, Ratae Chapter by the yanks but he chose to ignore this and arranged a meeting with us at a motorway service station and about 30 members of our club turned up to see what he had to say.
    At the time, I was 21 and I was one of the youngest members of our club. we had people like Big Rog, Leo (who was 47), and plenty of others that were pushing thirty at that time, and then Buttons walkes in, this little tubby looking fella, who was 19 years of age, with his seargent at arms, Tramp, who was 18 or 19, so that was a bad impression straight away. Our club was full of men and these were kids, we sent a message back to Ralph Sonny Barger to tell him we would not be changing our red on blue patches.
    a lot of clubs have since joined the the up to this Hell's Angels World thing now but they have lost their original identities. The Wolvo, the Windsor and the Mofos plus numerous other clubs have all lost something in their makeup.
    It was better when the English clubs all had their seperate identities, the Road Rats still have their identity and out of the old clubs but thats about it.
    The Hell's Angels, Ratae chapter finally finished in about November 1985. Everyone was sent to prison in mid 1986.
    Buttons I heard was with a group called the Family, ex bikers hippies and stuff like that, I heard that in the early 1980s, havent heard much about him since, I still have a photo of him, I love the yank H.A. and the Holland H.A. but I think they are let down by the English H.A. as can be seen by the response from England after the Gerry Tobin affair.
    H.A. England havent really had a gang fight as such, you cant count the New forest incident when they snook up on H.A. Windsor and shot their President in the head (wont mention his name, cos he is a very good friend), and you cant count the time that they done the London Outcasts in the 1990, cos I mean really blood and thunder wars that go on for weeks and months. By for now. Long live H.A. U.S.A.

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  • Comment number 36. Posted by marianjune

    on 27 Apr 2011 12:17

    My name was Scratch, formerly Feathers. I lived at Button's house with his dad in the 60's just for a short while. I was a runnaway and his dad was gona adopt me to keep me safe from the cops picking me up. Anyway, I left and made my own way in the world. Became Miss Whiplash Lindi St.Clair. Whatever happened to Buttons? Did he go to the States? He must be about 60yrs old now. I loved him!!

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  • Comment number 35. Posted by jamiemandelkau

    on 4 Mar 2011 20:00

    Having written Buttons, and spend 25yrs in TV as producer/writer I found it an excellent 'historical' relapse do finally see the film. Am currently trying to reprint Buttons book as am outraged that people are paying thirty quid plus for a paperback and copies of hardback selling for hundreds. May publish book via Kindle for a couple of bucks so that all who really want to have copy can read.... Jamie Mandelkau

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  • Comment number 34. Posted by SteveTheYAK

    on 14 Jan 2011 00:40

    What a great film! By 1973 I had already given up being a Hell's Angel for almost three years because I was married and had a two year old daughter, but what I CAN tell you about the Hell's Angels in this film...(If my own experience, and that of my fellow Hell's Angels, is anything to go by)...that most of them probably went on to lead perfectly law-abiding and decent lives, with jobs, wifes, children, and grandchildren.
    They would be in their late fifties or early sixties by now...I'd love to know what became of them.

    Blossom,
    President of The Nomads.

    (btw..I'm still riding bikes, in a gang........o.k. a motorcycle club!)

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  • Comment number 33. Posted by staffop

    on 15 Nov 2010 12:15

    Sorry, works now!

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  • Comment number 32. Posted by staffop

    on 15 Nov 2010 11:56

    Is this content still working for everyone - i keep getting a 'try again later' error?

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  • Comment number 31. Posted by JBVelocity

    on 31 Oct 2010 19:54

    The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has moved on massively since 1973. Over the years as a once youthful grebo and motorcyclist the Hells Angels that I have met have been sound people. The club keep their business to themselves just as we do and at the end of the day whose business is it anyway. Other than the so called authorities. I don't like the city council monitoring my recycling bin so why should any one not question authority. The HAMC represent what many of us would dearly love to have. But for whatever reasons we don't. Few people can offer the commitment that the club requires and that is what makes it what it is. Show some respect and support your local 81. Oh, and don't cross the picket line either!

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  • Comment number 30. Posted by pmf598

    on 28 Oct 2010 19:44

    This probably about as useful as the BBC Have your Say nonsense which just goes off into digital infinity, but post 28 should Google Bulldog Bash for a current public take on English and Welsh Hells Angels or Google Hells Angels for a worldwide view . . . in a Britain smothered by health and safety with the only outlet being to go and knock six shades of pooh out of people in mud huts in Afghanistan i m glad we've got some homegrown nutters . . . yes they they are psychotically violent. all through history there have been men like that but what is good about the Angels is they can throw a very good party when they want to, and, if you're into bikes they run some exquisite machinery . . . . of course there are dangers involved by being close to them but if you're not a complete tw*t you should be okay, i've been to loads of their shows and i'm still in one piece and i'm p*ssed off with people thinking we are all safe and cosy at home, cos we're not, so be paranoid or whatever but deal with it, we're British for Gods sake, if we as a nation dealt with Adolf then you can deal with your local Hells Angel . . X

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  • Comment number 29. Posted by moreram

    on 25 Oct 2010 21:31

    I agree with post 25, about time the BBC dugout the documentary film made in the early 80s about the Outcast Biker Gang from Great Yarmouth. I remember the BBC filming it around Great Yarmouth at the time. Very funny and well worth another look. I think their President, Tramp, is still about!

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